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[Video+Review] Daniel Defense MK18: High-Speed AR

What happens when you combine the Daniel Defense name with a prolific, high-speed configuration preferred by the likes of SOCOM…

You get the MK18, of course.

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18

And today, we’re diving into this AR-15 platform — complete with a whole lot of historical context backing it.

I mean, there’s a lot to say about a gun chosen by SOCOM.

Daniel Defense MK18
It’s got some history!

So, in addition to expanding on my own personal experience doing some rad shooting with the DD MK18, we’re also going to dive into its role in history, especially as it relates to the military.

If you’ve ever wanted to know about the MK18…now’s your chance to learn. So keep reading to get your learn on.

Or you can see the MK18 in action in my full video review below.

And as always, check out Pew Pew Tactical on YouTube for more great gun content.

Table of Contents


What is the MK18, Anyway?

The phrase MK18 can refer to several different M4 carbine variants used by various SOCOM units over the past 20 years of America’s involvement in the Global War on Terrorism.

While there’s a whole lot of fine detail regarding the exact configurations found on the Navy’s various CQBR M4s – essentially, the direct predecessor to the MK18 — we’ll gloss over those for now.

In general, the CQBR was an upper receiver overhaul that shortened the standard military M4’s barrel length from 14.5-inches to something more suitable for close-quarters environments.

It delivered the firepower of the M4’s 5.56 cartridge in a package the size of a submachine gun.

The project eventually spawned the first iteration of the short-barreled rifle that would bear the MK18 moniker — the MK18 mod 0.

This model featured a 10.3-inch barrel with specific modifications to the gas block and extractor springs allowing the rifle to cycle reliably at that length.

Some of those mods included a Knight’s Armament Quad Rail, QD flash hider and KAC suppressor, M68 Aimpoint, PEQ2 IR laser unit, etc.

For fellow aging crusty Millennials that came of age in the post 9/11 mediasphere, you likely recognize the silhouette of the MK18 Mod 0 as the quintessential Western special operations carbine.

You’ll find the MK18 in a host of games.

The MK18 was not to remain static. Its platform was further fine-tuned to meet the needs of its end users.

And the MK18 Mod 1 is what our Daniel Defense MK18 is a close approximation of.

(I can already hear the angry clicking of 1,000 clone build community keyboards being pounded upon at that mere suggestion.)


Off-handedly referred to as the “Block 2” MK18; the Mod 1 replaced a few features, including:

  • An aging Knight’s quad rail with a 9-inch FDE Daniel Defense RIS 2
  • Low-profile MK12 gas block
  • Folding KAC front sight and MATech rear BUIS.

However, the Knight’s NT4 QD flash hider was retained for suppressor compatibility.

While there are more differences to be found throughout, we’ll skip the finer details for the sake of brevity.

2021 Update

Thanks to the ATF looking to reclassify pistol braced firearms as SBRs, Daniel Defense is taking their complete pistol models off the market for the time being as of August 2021.

You can try to snag something still in stock (unlikely).

However, their complete uppers are still available.

As well as incomplete uppers (no BCG, charging handle, or muzzle device).

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Specs & Features

Now that we’ve got a decent idea of just what an MK18 is in recent historical context let’s move now to Daniel Defense’s iteration.

First, you’ll notice that the MK18 we used for this review is, legally speaking, an AR pistol.

Daniel Defense MK18

It features an SB Tactical pistol brace rather than an actual carbine stock.

We probably don’t have to tell you that all sorts of craziness is going on with the legal standing of pistol braces, so just keep that in mind as you follow along.

Daniel Defense MK18
We can feel the ATF ire from here.

(To read more about the ATF and braces, check out our rundown here.)

Daniel Defense’s MK18 pistol still features the 10.3-inch, 1:7 twist government profile barrel found on the issued MK18.

It rides inside of the very same FDE 9-inch RIS 2 as well.

Daniel Defense MK18

Receiver & Furniture

The gun’s receiver itself is obviously made by Daniel Defense.

But the original MK18 Mod 1s used Colt uppers to the best of my knowledge. (This nugget of information is likely only useful to the dedicated clone community.)

Daniel Defense MK18

All fire controls and receiver details are exactly what you’d expect from a standard AR-15, perhaps with the notable exceptions of an ambi-fire and a polymer dust cover.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The DD MK18 ships with DD’s signature take on a polymer AR magazine.

It’s designed explicitly to hold 32 rounds or so with a built-in Magpul-esque ridge on the floor plate. This allows for a solid purchase when going for a reload.

Daniel Defense MK18

The mag works well enough, but we did have a handful of small issues when loaded to full capacity.

My penchant for ramming mags into the magwell with probably a bit more force than is necessary probably didn’t help either.

I sometimes over-seated the magazine, causing issues with the bolt going into battery even when locked to the rear.

Daniel Defense MK18
Ran into some issues but nothing major that couldn’t be corrected.

This was easily solved by either downloading the round count from the mag slightly or just being a bit more mindful about not hulking it into the receiver. Not a deal-breaker, though.

The gun ran flawlessly with PMAGs, so take that for what it’s worth.

at Gunmag Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The MK18 also comes equipped with a DD AR pistol grip.

Some viewers will remember during the DDM4V7 and Delta Pro 5 reviews, I wasn’t a fan.

Daniel Defense MK18
DD pistol grip

That said, I feel like I’ve got a slightly different perspective on it after shooting indoors at the incredibly generous ALERRT training facility. But more on that in a second.

DD’s MK18 also comes standard with polymer rail covers.

Daniel Defense MK18
Those rail covers came in handy.

These provide some protection from the angular edges of the rail system and from the heat generated by the rifle when both suppressed and full auto.

Long story short, the front end of this thing gets HOT.

Did Someone Say Suppressor?

If you’re a stickler for details, you probably noticed DD’s version doesn’t come with the KAC NT4 QD flash suppressor.

But the included Daniel Defense muzzle device is still compatible with the KAC NT4 QD assembly.

Daniel Defense MK18

Speaking of suppressors, we chose to outfit our MK18 with a Silencer Central Banish 30 Gold. We were pretty pleased with the results.

The Banish 30 drops the MK18’s muzzle report to about 130 decibels compared to the approximate 168 decibels of the gun unsuppressed with no muzzle device.

Daniel Defense MK18
The Banish 30 on the DD MK18

This still feels a little sharp on the ears if you aren’t wearing hearing protection — which you obviously should be.

That said, it’s a pretty radical difference from getting rocked by the full muzzle blast of 5.56 out of a 10-inch barrel.

Daniel Defense MK18

We had to shim the Banish 30 slightly to get it seated properly without bonking into the MK18 rail.

at Silencer Central

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Want more on the regular Banish 30? Check out our review here.

The Range

With all the specifics covered, let’s talk about how it did at the range.

As mentioned, we got to spend some quality time with the MK18 across a few different ranges doing some pretty rad stuff that civilian dorks like me rarely have access to.

This was all courtesy of the fine folks at ALERRT Training Center, Broaddus Defense, and of course, Daniel Defense themselves.

Daniel Defense MK18
Kicking in doors, doing cool sh*t at ALERRT.

Also, big thanks to Broaddus for setting us up…and if you’re looking for carbine courses or anything else in the Texas area, check out Broaddus.

Spoiler alert: the ALERRT facility is top-notch, and we’re super grateful for the opportunity to get to run a shoot house as casual gun nerds.

All told, we ran probably a couple of thousand rounds through the MK18 over a few days with only a few minor issues.

Daniel Defense MK18
ALERRT = rad!

For those not in the know, running a suppressor is going to cake your gun up with carbon hella fast.

So, we had a handful of stoppages related to both carbon buildup and running the gun dry.

But we’re willing to put the blame squarely on ourselves for those, as a cursory wipe down and some lube fixed everything.

Truth be told, the MK18 runs pretty damn well. Drilling steel and paper bad guys from various ranges, barricades, and obstacles was no issue at all.

Daniel Defense MK18
We even ran into the evening hours.

Of particular note for me, getting the hang of controlled full-auto bursts is rad. Long story short, hearing that string o’pings when you get a controlled burst into steel at 50-yards just feels dope.

Getting to run the shoot house was likewise pretty illuminating.

Previously, I didn’t particularly care for the non-standard angle of DD’s pistol grip.

Daniel Defense MK18
Pinging targets

But I found that it actually works surprisingly well when manipulating the MK18 through close quarters or cramped environments.

It’s especially useful when punching the gun out to shoot and retracting it to maneuver.

I feel like I’ve got a better appreciation for the shallower angle of the grip.

Daniel Defense MK18

Is that a selling point that’s relevant for everyone?

Almost assuredly no, but it felt like it was worth mentioning considering my previous disdain for the grip.

Perhaps it’s something to consider if you’re building something like a home defense AR or the like.

Daniel Defense MK18

By the Numbers

Reliability: 4/5

We initially had some issues, but simply downloading the magazine and not slamming into the magwell cleared those up. If you’re particularly rough on your rifles, you’ll have to learn to be gentler.

Ergonomics: 4.5/5

At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of the pistol grip, but CQB in the shoot house changed my perspective. Overall, it feels pretty good, especially in tight quarters.

Accuracy: 5/5

We had no issues ringing steel and pinging targets at the various ranges we took her to.

Customization: 5/5

At the end of the day, it’s an AR, so the world is your oyster.

Value: 4/5

It’s expensive…like $2,000 expensive. For some folks, that’s just not reasonable. But, if you have the cash, it’s worth it. Or opt for the stripped upper and add in your own innards.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Overall: 4.5/5

In the market for an AR-15 that runs exceedingly well? Or do you like that distinctive MK18 silhouette? Then the Daniel Defense MK18 is a fantastic option.


I had an absolute blast with the DD MK18 over a variety of range types and settings. And I had next to no issues that weren’t self-induced.

Again, this is an AR-15 pistol package at its heart, but an awesome one.

Daniel Defense MK18

While I really liked the rifle and my experiences with it, its price is not for the faint of heart.

Coming in at just under $2,000, I’d completely understand if most folks took a pass on this one. But, if you’ve got the cash and the want, the MK18 is a great buy.

And thanks for the ATF…you might have to get the complete upper by itself or a stripped upper.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Again, check the rifle out in the video below to see how it looks in the throes of shooting.

What do you think of the Daniel Defense MK18? Let us know in the comments below. Want more DD content? Check out our review of the bolt-action Delta Pro 5 and the DDM4 V7.

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